Merrit Kennedy

Merrit Kennedy is a reporter for The Two-Way, NPR's breaking news blog. She covers a broad range of issues, from the latest developments out of the Middle East to science research news.

Merrit joined NPR in Washington, D.C., in December 2015, after seven years living and working in Egypt. She started her journalism career at the beginning of the Egyptian uprising in 2011 and chronicled the ouster of two presidents, eight rounds of elections and numerous major outbreaks of violence for NPR and other news outlets. She has also worked as a reporter and television producer in Cairo for The Associated Press, covering Egypt, Yemen, Libya and Sudan.

She grew up in Los Angeles, the Middle East and places in between, and holds a bachelor's degree in international relations from Stanford University and a master's degree in international human rights law from The American University in Cairo.

Updated at 5:30 a.m. ET Wednesday

Even though Maria has weakened to a Category 4 storm, it remains a dangerous hurricane. Maria's maximum sustained winds are near 155 mph. The National Hurricane Center says the storm should keep that intensity until it makes landfall. Puerto Rico has long been spared from a direct hit by a hurricane.

Updated at 2:20 a.m. ET Wednesday

Iraqi authorities have moved a group of more than 1,300 foreign women and children — the family members of suspected ISIS fighters — and a refugee agency is raising the alarm about their precarious situation and the specter of retribution.

"The families had been held in a camp in Kurdish-controlled territory while Iraq figures out what to do with them," NPR's Jane Arraf reports.

There's good news on three primary U.S. economic benchmarks: the poverty rate, income level and number of people covered by health insurance.

New figures released by the Census Bureau Tuesday show median household income in 2016 was $59,039 — more than 3 percent higher than in 2015.

And because last year also saw income growth, "these are two consecutive years of strong income gains," the Census Bureau's Trudi Renwick told reporters.

Crowds poured into the streets in major cities across France to protest changes that President Emmanuel Macron wants to make to the country's labor code, waving flares and brandishing signs with sarcastic slogans such as "slackers of all nations unite."

The show of opposition, led by the far-left union CGT, is seen as the first major test for the recently elected leader.

Pollinators such as bees play a key part of producing the beans that go into your morning cup of coffee.

In fact, they are responsible for about 20 to 25 percent of coffee production by increasing the plants' yield, Taylor Ricketts, the director of the University of Vermont's Gund Institute for Environment, tells The Two-Way. Bees actually increase the quality of the beans by making their size more uniform.

It sounds like a bit of a head-scratcher: Department store giant Nordstrom says its new concept store won't actually have any clothing in stock.

Instead, Nordstrom Local will focus on free consultations with personal stylists, who will advise customers and then have the merchandise brought in. People can also get manicures and curbside pickup.

Prospective customers will be able to make appointments "online, over the phone or in-person," the retailer says.

A Florida state attorney gained national attention when she announced last March that her office would no longer seek the death penalty, setting up a months-long legal battle with Florida Gov. Rick Scott.

That's a battle State Attorney Aramis Ayala of Orlando has now lost, following a decision Thursday from the Supreme Court of Florida that the governor does have the authority to reassign first-degree-murder cases to a different prosecutor.

Updated 10:10 p.m. ET

A Utah nurse and her attorney have released video footage showing an officer roughly arresting her at University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City. They say it amounts to assault.

The video shows an officer aggressively handcuffing nurse Alex Wubbels after she refuses to allow him to draw blood from an unconscious patient.

At a time when the Great Barrier Reef and other coral reefs are facing unprecedented destruction, researchers in Australia have found a small ray of hope for the fish that make the reefs their home.

Fish are more resilient to the effects of ocean acidification than scientists had previously thought, according to research published Thursday in Scientific Reports.

What should you do when confronted by a floating raft of thousands of fire ants?

Among the many scenes of devastation coming out of areas flooded by Tropical Storm Harvey, images of floating rafts of these ants have gone viral on social media.

In flooded Houston, with scores of businesses closed and homes evacuated, authorities are sending a message to those thinking of looting or price gouging: Taking advantage of the situation won't be tolerated.

Police are beefing up security over reports of looting during and after Hurricane Harvey. That includes imposing a curfew and stiffening penalties for crimes committed in the stricken area.

Bernard Pomerance, who wrote the Tony Award-winning play The Elephant Man about the life of a seriously deformed man in Victorian England, has died at the age of 76, according to his agency.

His agent Alan Brodie told The Associated Press that Pomerance "died Saturday of complications from cancer at his home in Galisteo, New Mexico."

Since 2005, the U.S.-based environmental activist group Sea Shepherd has used its ships to disrupt Japan's annual whaling expedition in Antarctic waters.

But this year, Sea Shepherd says it won't send ships because Japanese whalers are using improved technology that helps them avoid the vessels. And the group's founder, Paul Watson, accuses the Australian, New Zealand and U.S. governments of appeasing Japan by not doing more to stop the killing of whales.

If you walked into Baltimore's Wyman Park Dell two weeks ago, a statue of Confederate Gens. Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson on horseback would have towered above you.

There's an inscription on the base that reads, "They were great generals and Christian soldiers and waged war like gentlemen." But now, there's nothing atop the pedestal except for a few potted plants.

Human rights groups filed two federal lawsuits Monday against President Trump and other top members of his administration, alleging that a ban against transgender people serving in the military is unconstitutional.

Plaintiffs include both transgender people who are currently serving in the military and transgender people who wish to serve but are no longer able to because of the ban.

The health insurer Aetna is facing criticism for revealing the HIV status of potentially thousands of customers after it sent out a mailer in which information about ordering prescription HIV drugs was clearly visible through the envelope's clear window.

For example, in a letter sent to a customer in Brooklyn, N.Y., the window revealed considerably more than the address. It also showed the beginning of a letter advising the customer about options "when filling prescriptions for HIV Medic ... "

The four suspected members of a terror cell — the only members believed to be alive — appeared in a Madrid court Tuesday in connection with the attacks in Spain last week that killed 15 people.

The hearing took place behind closed doors. But numerous Spanish and international news outlets say multiple suspects testified that a former imam was the mastermind of a failed plot to use explosives in a large-scale attack.

Police in Finland say the man suspected of going on a stabbing rampage in the city of Turku, killing two people and injuring six others, is an 18-year old Moroccan citizen who was previously known to authorities.

Finland recently rejected his application for asylum, according to the public broadcaster YLE.

Two people were killed Friday in a stabbing attack in Turku, Finland, and police say they have apprehended a suspect after shooting him in the leg.

Regional police forces said on Twitter that six other people were injured in the attack, which took place in the center of the city about 100 miles away from the capital, Helsinki. It wasn't immediately clear what condition they were in.

Updated at 3:50 p.m. ET

Susan Bro, the mother of Charlottesville victim Heather Heyer, says she will not speak to President Trump because of his comments that suggested white supremacists and people protesting against them were both to blame for last weekend's violence in Virginia.

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